Alcohol Abuse in Africa: The Case of Ghana
Alcohol is a commonly abused substance in most continents and Africa is no exception. Unlike the United States which has alcohol as the second most commonly used drug, in Africa it is the foremost abused substance. This could be attributed to the fact that most cultural or traditional ceremonies utilize alcohol in one way or another. In Ghana – West Africa – for example, during the naming ceremony of a newborn, the baby is given a drop of alcohol and then a drop of water with the belief that the child will recognize the difference when he grows up. It is common to find alcoholic beverages being served at functions such as birth, death, marriage ...view middle of the document...
Types of Alcoholic Beverages
There are both commercial and non-commercial types of alcoholic beverages sold in Ghana. Some of the commercial ones are the schnapps, beer and stout. The sale of the commercial alcoholic beverages is regulated and as a result, they cost more than the non-commercial ones. The non-commercial ones on the other hand, are brewed locally and not regulated which leads to them being inexpensive and more commonly abused. There are three main non-commercial alcoholic beverages namely Pito, Palm wine, and Akpeteshie.
Pito is an alcoholic beverage which is locally brewed using millet. It is traditionally associated with those from the northern region of Ghana, but its production is now common throughout the country due to migration. The brewing of this beverage is mostly controlled by women. Pito varies in taste from slightly sweet to very sour and looks golden yellow to dark brown. It contains 2% to 3% alcohol, some vitamins, proteins, lactic acid, sugars, and amino acids (Adelekan, 2008). This beverage tastes sweet when freshly brewed and has little alcohol content, however, the longer it ferments the more sour it gets and the alcohol content also increases.
Palm wine, locally call nsafufuo (white alcohol) is produced from sugary palm saps and is widely consumed among Ghanaians. The raffia palms and the oil palms are the most frequently tapped ones. Nsafufuo starts fermenting soon after the collection of the sap and within an hour or two becomes high in alcohol content of up to 4% (Adelekan, 2008). Much like the Pito, Nsafufuo also increases in alcohol content with longer periods of fermentation. Also, the freshly brewed version has little to no alcohol content.
Akpeteshie (local gin) is distilled from sugar-cane juice or fermented palm wine. Its production requires simple tools such as barrels and copper tubing. The standardized alcohol strength of akpeteshie today ranges between 40% and 50% by volume (Adelekan, 2008). Due to its strong alcoholic content, it is mainly consumed by men, even though some women drink it too.
History of Alcohol in Ghana
Originally, palm wine was the drink of choice among southerners in Ghana but was replaced by the importation of gin and schnapps during the slave trade era. Men, especially, favor distilled spirits over palm wine because they consider the distilled spirits to be “strong” or “hot”. Drinking distilled spirits was also a sign of prestige in the pre-colonial Ghana, and, as such, this behavior was controlled by people in power either traditionally (elders) or politically (Adelekan, 2008). Due to urbanization over the past 100 years, many young men migrated to mining areas and big cities where they could afford to buy and drink alcohol freely. Drinking alcohol therefore became a means of socializing for young men who gathered after work to drink together and for some, to release stress.
To the distress of the colonial rulers, Ghanaians replaced the...